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{Moments with Krista} Finding True Community

Written By: Krista Dunbar

True community is hard to find.  It doesn’t come quite as naturally for those of us who are in the “adulting” stages of life either.  So often, I hear how hard it is to make friends once the college years are gone and we’ve settled into our big person jobs.

Sometimes people don’t mesh very well.  Sometimes life’s transitions, events, or stages seem to cause disbandment rather than unity.

Who said doing life together was easy?

I think the church in general has played a major role in all of this.  Here’s an excerpt from Jen Hatmaker’s For The Love:

“The church certainly tries to foster community, bless it.  We at least know how essential it is.  So we organize Life Groups (see also: Restore Groups, Community Groups, Home Groups, Cell Groups, Youth Groups, Women’s Groups, or–kickin’ it like my Baptists–Sunday school.  We try to provide structure for folks to belong, to be known.  Sometimes it works like magic and other times it so doesn’t.  You can lead a horse to water, but sometimes the horse is awkward and weird, you know?  I’ve had small groups create friends for life and others that felt a teeny bit like sustained torture.”

Folks, I’m not going to lie to ya…I’ve been the awkward and new gal.  I’ve also been the one that feels like she has to make everyone else feel like they have a good time, are valued, and welcomed.

Because I’ve been connected to some of the most impacting groups of people in my life through the church, I have a soft spot for them.  Working with young adults alongside my husband has also helped in this area as well.

I believe the church is the place we can truly become a functioning body of believers, especially if everyone is functioning in their specific and unique gifts.  When all is right, it feels like a true Acts 2:44 community.  And it’s beautiful.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve also seen it fail miserably.  In our three years of doing ministry, my husband and I have seen our fair share of both types of community.  But I truly have come to believe that both are beautiful in their own way.  Some communities are brought together for a specific time period or even just a specific study.  Some are brought together by their ages or stages of life, and some are brought together naturally through common interests or just being around each other day after day.

Not only did sweet Jen point out how awkward or amazing these communities can be, she also pointed to a remedy:

“Instead of waiting around for church to assemble a perfect group of dynamic people who can meet on Tuesdays, maybe just invite some folks over.  A shared table is the supreme expression of hospitality in every culture on earth.”

By no means am I saying we’ve got it right.  By no means am I saying that our Community Group is the best community out there.  But it’s community.  It’s a beautiful group of totally diverse people coming together weekly to share stories, prayer requests, and laughter.  It’s sometimes spot on, and sometimes we need a kick in the pants to get started.  But we do it all together.  We want you to do it too.  Whether it’s with us or with others, find people to share life with.

I’ve been blessed to have had community where we are for quite some time.  It’s been messy at times because we as people are naturally…messy.  I’ve seen days where I wanted to give up because my stubborn heart didn’t want to put the work in required to love people well.  But I’m so glad I didn’t.

True community is doing life together.  True community is letting tears fall hard, laughter be loud, and quietness be a blessing.  True community is sharing our true selves with each other, working through messiness, and even pointing out truth, especially when it’s hard.

Krista

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{Moments with Krista} It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

Written By: Krista Dunbar

The topic of mental health is not only a difficult subject to talk about, but a relevant one.  In today’s world of constant connectivity and social connectedness through multiple technological platforms, it’s so easy to glorify our schedules, to-do lists, relationships, and so much more.  It’s also so easy to let ourselves get caught up in this world so much that we forget to stop and take an inventory of how we are doing emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Only when our lives begin to show the effects of this do we begin to do something about it.  And often, by that time, it takes a lot of work and effort to come back.

Not only have I personally struggled with anxiety multiple times and throughout different seasons in my 27 years, but I have friends that struggle with it as well.  Mental health is one of the most important things to take care of whether it’s in the highest points and seasons of happiness or in the valleys…but it’s necessary to keep track of the signals and triggers before it hits the lowest lows.  Not only that, but as you get older and life happens, it’s easy to forget that your hormones and mental stability are so important for your general well being.

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.

That one piece of advice from my best friend was truly my saving grace.  In the moments of darkness, identity confusion, and swarming thoughts…I held on to the fact that even though I was going through mental struggle…I wasn’t alone, it wasn’t embarrassing, and I was okay even in my season of not being okay.  Life is full of ups and downs…and our body is made up of so many hormones.  It’s normal to have seasons of low but when it’s a time of extreme low, don’t be too proud or prideful to seek help.  I was embarrassed to let someone know I might need the help of a trained professional…but that few hundred dollars were some of the best I’ve ever spent.  In the words of Seth Cohen…counsellors are a “third party observer with absolutely no judgements about your personal life.”  They are there to be a sounding board to offer a listening ear and to provide safe counsel for you to find the light at the end of whatever tunnel you’re journeying through.  Counsellors help you find some threads in your story that might lead you to freedom from your internal battles.

One of the best things I’ve learned is the importance of self care.  I always thought it would be selfish to hone in on my thoughts and feelings to take care of me first…but that’s exactly what you must do.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for others well either.  Self care gives you the permission to sit down and listen to what your body and soul are saying to you. It’s the opportunity to find freedom from those thoughts and feelings you try to keep tidily trapped inside.  It’s a chance to quit judging every move you make and your intentions behind them and just live.

If you are reading these words and they resonate with you…don’t be afraid or too prideful to ask for help.  You’re helping others by helping yourself.

Find Rest

I find that my anxiety hits me when I’m too busy glorifying my schedule and busyness to find rest and refuel my soul.  For me, that means locking myself away in the office to journal, read the Bible, and pray.  If I don’t spend time doing this and choose other things that I feel meet a more immediate need (whether that’s true or not), I begin to experience those symptoms of anxiety.

Even Jesus took time to rest and recharge.  Through His actions, we see that He made time with the Father a priority…even if the crowds were following behind.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

“But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil.” Proverbs 1:33

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Luke 5:16

I’m not a counsellor and have no certifications or expertise in this area…just my own life experiences.  Please don’t hesitate to seek out a counsellor to dig through these things with you!

Also, I found this article very helpful on the topic of self care:

Preventing Burnout Through Holistic Self-Care

You will be okay…even if you don’t feel like it because…it’s okay to not be okay!

Krista

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{Testimony} Krista

Written By: Krista Dunbar

My story.

Its always so hard to put my story into a few succinct paragraphs.  Its so hard to put 27 years of Gods moulding and shaping into one post.  But, bear with me!  Im going to do my best.  One of my favourite things to do when sharing about what I see God doing is to find a few threads and pull them a bit

If youve ever gotten a tear in your sweater and have pulled it to see how far reaching the unravelling has gone, you know what Im talking about.  As you pull, it not only pulls the one strand.  You begin to see the 5 or 6 other strands that it immediately connects to, holding the garments shape and pattern together so beautifully.

I believe its the same with our stories.  Each story in our lives (or thread) connects to so many others, and together, they make up who we are, our experiences, and even show what God has been up to.

Its beautiful to tell your story looking back, because you can see the beautiful garment the Lord has woven and threaded.  You can see how your threads are woven and connected to others to make the story of God that much more beautiful.

Some common threads Ive pulled out of my story have to deal with identity, calling or purpose, and seeing God work despite my weaknesses.

In high school, I struggled with finding my purpose in my circumstances.  I believed that my life story would be impacted by those around me and what they chose for their lives.  So, when my parents went through a divorce, I took it personally.  I let it impact every part of my mental and emotional state.  But because I had an amazing youth leader around who encouraged me to give it to Jesus, I was set free.  For the first time in my life, I knew that Jesus was real and not just a nice man with a nice story to tell in my childrens books.  He became personal.

I took Jesus to college with me.  I went to church 3 times a week and tried to get involved in anything church-related on campus the first few months of my freshman year.  I went to campus with high hopes of leading studies, bringing people to deeper walks with Christ, and continuing down the path I was on in my faith.  A few months later, a new boyfriend later, and a new sorority laterI wasnt so sure I was as strong as I thought I was.  Looking back, I know I was trying to do it on my ownand that never works out.

I began to find my identity in what I did on the weekends and my boyfriend rather than my God-given identity.  I began to search for acceptance, love, and purpose in those thingstwo years later, I realized I had lost myself.  My boyfriend became someone I was trying to drag along with me in my faith and also the one that I had chained myself to.  After years of choosing my weekends and my love life over my relationship with God, I didnt know who I was anymore.  I had completely traded my identity in Christ for one that continually left me feeling empty, confused, and depressed.

Im so thankful that the Lord pursues us NO MATTER WHAT.  I truly believe that the Lord was using the Holy Spirit to convict me and get my fanny to church, even if it was sporadically.  You see, my desire for Jesus never left, but my willpower went from wanting to live out my faith to wanting to live in what was easy.  To follow Jesus in those years wouldve meant doing the hard things: saying no to the temptations that surrounded me, saying no to a boyfriend that wasnt at all spurring me on toward a closer relationship with Jesus, and saying no to the things that would give me momentary satisfaction but a lifetime of baggage.

Life looks so much different these days and Im grateful.  I used to be so embarrassed to share my story because its not pretty.  I used to be ashamed to say that Ive got so many bumps and bruises on my heart from the things I used to let define me.  But God has picked me up, washed me white as snow as Ive given my story to Him, and let me use my story to encourage others in theirs.  Im so thankful for His grace and redeeming love; that He would use our war stories for good and show us that no matter what weve done, He can make it beautiful.
Krista

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{Moments with Krista} Broken & Beautiful

Written By: Krista Dunbar

 I have always been ashamed of telling my story.  Let me restate that.  I USED to be ashamed of telling my story.  Recently, I’ve felt God moulding me and coaxing me out of that unreasonable fear.

You see…my story is dark and different and not beautiful.  It’s not what a pastor’s wife’s story should look like.  It’s not what a good Christian woman’s story should look like…or so I thought.  But it’s okay…because it’s my story.  It’s the choices I have made, the people I’ve allowed in my life, and the roads I’ve travelled (as dark as they may be) that make it a story worth telling.  Honestly that’s not even true.  It’s the man I follow and will continue to follow that has made my story beautiful.  It’s the Creator God that formed and shaped me, who knows the hairs on my head, who knows when I’m standing or lying down…it’s this God that has redeemed my story.  It’s His Son who carried my baggage and cleaned me off.

It’s in my weaknesses that I can now boast…not because I have it together.  I can boast because Jesus has bridged the gap from my ugly, ugly past…my dirty shame…to rectify the relationship with my Creator.  I have nothing to offer but my worship and praise…and God gets all of it.

So back to my story…in the recent season, I’ve heard so many different stories from so many different people in all walks of life.  Each story is beautiful.  Each story is unique.  Each story, no matter what that person is walking through-is known and being threaded into God’s bigger purpose.

I went to the Influence Conference last September and heard a pastor’s wife speak of her past.  Her drug filled, depression ridden, dirty past.  While her past wasn’t pretty, it gave me hope.  She stood in front of hundreds of women and shared her raw shame and past in a way that was so beautiful because it was hers.  She shared how she still sins.  How sometimes God has to remind her that she’s building her own kingdom and not His.  I don’t know about you, but that’s gutsy to share with a bunch of women.  That’s gutsy to share in general.  But I admired her for sharing because it showed me that she didn’t have it together and God cleaned her up and chose her.  He chose to use her for His purpose…in telling of His story.  She shared how she still doesn’t have it together…how she chooses Jesus each day and walks with Him because she NEEDS Him in order to build anything lasting.  As a pastor’s wife that quietly shares bits and pieces of my own story with chosen audiences… this was a life changing message for me.

NO STORY IS TOO UGLY.  NO STORY IS TOO DIRTY.  NO STORY IS TOO STICKY.  

In sharing of our sufferings, our messes, our dirtiness…God is glorified.  We allow Him to shine through our holes…because He fills those gaps and holes in us.  He washes our sin away and continues to make us new EVERY DAY.  So whatever your story was yesterday…it’s a new day today.  Be BOLD.  Be FEARLESS.

Tell your story.

I’m speaking to myself in this.  My story is shame filled and broken.  But because of the redeeming work of Jesus…in that He lets me lay my baggage at His feet, in that He dusts me off, picks me up, and calls me His…I can share my story with boldness and humble grace. I can share my story because I know it’s not only my story but it’s His.  It’s the threads of His bigger purpose.  It’s a story of redemption and a continued process of moulding, shaping, and walking on this journey to the finish-line of grace and truth.  I’ve come to love my story.  I’ve come to accept it.  It’s mine.  God has used me to help others with what I’ve gone through.  He’s taken my mistakes and times of straying from Him and grafted me back in.  He’s pruned my dead and dying limbs and made them fruit-bearing once again.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 MSG

If God tells us the Truth, we need to tell ourselves that Truth and then we need to share it with others.  We need to share our truths authentically with others no matter how messy.  Because no one has the power to place judgement on you.  No one has the power to make you lesser…because it’s not truth.  You are more.  You can do more.  You are enough.  You are not alone.  You are not too far gone.  Those things from your past?  Those are the things that shape you into who you are…those are the things you can give to God right now…so that He can shape and mould you from those things…so that you can encourage someone else in that.  So that you can walk in community with someone else that needs to hear the simple words, “Me too”.

You’re story is beautiful.  I’d love to hear it.  I’d also love to share mine with you.  If you come along this journey with me, I’ll show you how God has been moulding the pieces of my past into this present journey of walking with Him.

If you’re willing…please send me a note and share your threads with me!

Krista

Krista's Posts, Moments With Krista

{Moments with Krista} Journeying With Jesus

Written By: Krista Dunbar

How you met Jesus is always the most beautiful story, no matter how it began.  You see, God is after us before we ever even make our entrance into this world.  Whether we know it or choose not to open our eyes to it, we are the most loved we will ever be before we could even hold our head up.  There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love or His favour.  We already have it.

Like a newborn baby journeys its way from the womb to life and then on to adulthood, we also are on a journey from the first moment we actually recognize and accept Jesus as the Lord of our lives.  No matter how long it took or is taking you to understand that, it’s still a beautiful journey.

Your story might be one that has been at a steady pace since childhood (if you were raised in a Christian home).  Or it may have looked like a series of ups and downs.  Maybe you found Christ and then let Him fade into the background as you found other “more important” people or things to take His place in your heart.  Or maybe you haven’t given Him much thought at all.

No matter what your story is, it’s beautiful.  Each of us are on a journey of maturing and growing in our faith.  Will we stumble?  Yes.  Will we fall?  Probably.  No matter what, we can trust in the One who will hold out His right hand and let us lean into Him as we choose to finish the race.  He’s right there and He has been all along.  But it’s a choice.  It’s your choice.  Take His hand if you haven’t.  You don’t have to journey through this life alone….especially because it’s a tough and lonely road.

God never leaves and never forsakes.  He is full of love, wisdom, and truth.  Knowing Him is knowing peace and strength and purpose.  Knowing Him is knowing who you are.  Knowing Him is a life filled with forgiveness and grace.  It’s knowing and trusting in His promises-which are always fulfilled.  It’s knowing you have a home waiting for you at the end of this journey and it’s knowing that no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done, what your past looks like…it doesn’t matter.  It makes no difference because Jesus lived this life and knows exactly where we are at, how we feel, and more.  He can truly say, “me too, I know”.  What’s even better is that He vouches for us to our Creator who keeps no record because we start clean.  That’s something worth living this life for.  Choose Him each morning and keep choosing Him throughout each day.  It’s a journey.

So…what’s your story?  We’d love to hear it.  Take a second to share your story with us.

Krista

Krista's Posts, Moments With Krista

{Moments with Krista} Learning To Leap

Learning To Leap

Written By: Krista Dunbar

Leaping is not something that’s easily attainable for those of us that move out of fear, trepidation, or paralysis.  It’s hard to coax our bodies to move forward when our minds want to do anything and everything but just that.  It’s hard when the thing ahead of you is the unknown.  It’s hard when it’s something you’ve never experienced before or aren’t sure of the end result.  But that’s life.  That’s what it’s all about.  I’m learning slowly and surely with a patient and kind God that will gently and surely remind me that He will always go before me.  That if I make a wrong choice, He will correct my path every single time.  That if I’m too fearful to move, He will calm my anxieties with a silent but fulfilling peace.  And every single time, He proves that He is big enough.  He proves that He has a plan for everything (and our singular lives are no exception).  So here is my story of a big jump, rather than a leap for my husband and me.  It’s our story of trusting, wrestling, praying and fasting with a Creator whose timing is perfect.

When I was still single and engaged, I was doing my due diligence and continuing my job search for my first “big-girl” job.  I had just finished an internship in marketing and communications and wanted to take what I had learned, couple it with my passion, and be a freelance communication consultant for churches around my area.  Little did I know…I knew so little about church communications, but I had a passion and desire to use my love of writing to make the church more beautiful.  My friend and co-leader at my church had grown up at a church across town and told me that it couldn’t hurt to send an email to the pastor.  So…I did.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew that I needed a job, that I wanted to use my gifts in a church setting, and that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by pressing “send”.  I typed out a professional, yet passionate email to the pastor sharing my heart and desires to help them if they needed it.

He responded quickly that he would like to meet with me.  I was over the moon ecstatic.  The next week, I sat in the pastor’s office and shared my story and my heart with him.  He asked about my life.  At the time I was living with my roommate and her two kids as I would say (my mom and sisters) and was engaged to be married in a couple months to an incredible man who had a desire and calling to be a pastor and was currently working with a 20somethings church plant.

Little did I know that God was working in a BIG way in that meeting.

It went so well.  I expected to get a call the next week asking me to start as soon as possible.  That didn’t happen.  He did call though.  He called to ask for a joint interview with my fiancé and I.  We were so nervous and excited and felt that this was going to be it.  This would be the day that would give us a solid foundation for the start of our marriage journey together.

That didn’t happen.

While the interview went very well and lasted almost 5 hours (sitting, talking, and laughing in an Applebees)…we wouldn’t see an end to the tunnel for awhile.  For us-it was a perfect fit.  Chris would be able to do ministry and one that he is passionate about, and I would finally be able to use my skills to help the church.  But again, our timing isn’t God’s timing.

Chris found a job working as a contract painter with a local contractor.  This was a HUGE growing experience for him.  Not only that, he did janitorial work on the side for our church.  While he worked hard to make money for the wedding and our future, I was working hard at an oddity of jobs (substitute teaching, serving at a few restaurants, writing freelance assignments for a local newspaper, and building up my portfolio).  We both wanted to be settled in our fields desperately.

While we waited (impatiently) to hear back from the church, we continued growing in our relationship together, planned a wedding, and I started the process of saying goodbye to my grandma.  It was A LOT of stuff.  Good stuff and bad stuff.  I think God knew we wouldn’t have been able to take on this job if we had gotten it during all of this.  During this time, we continued to be faithful.  Then we tied the knot.  After the wedding, we continued to attend our church.  I had quit my jobs because we moved to the opposite side of town, and began searching heavily for options.  My grandma passed a month after the wedding, so it was a rough time of searching and asking God what the heck He wanted us to do.  My sweet grandma had offered up her home to us to live in while she was in hospice.  We took her up on it and lived there while my uncle and mom got it up on the market and ready to sell.

We started to give up on hope.  It had been seven months of waiting, not hearing anything but a “maybe” from the church.  We searched high and low for opportunities and wondered about moving across the country (if any time would be good, it would’ve been then).  We began praying, fasting, and reading as much Scripture as we could for direction.

I had given up on the idea of this job being attainable.  I started to get mad.  I wondered how a church could string along a couple of newlyweds with no money for an entire year.  I wondered why I would wait a whole year for a part-time job.  It was frustrating for Chris as he continued getting up everyday to go to a job that he felt he wasn’t good at and hated.  That first few months of marriage after the honeymoon was definitely trying for us.  We loved and hated it.  We loved that we were together finally, but hated that we were in a holding cell.  We made the decision to move.  Not one day later, we heard back from the church letting us know that we were one of three final candidates in the running.  I was still mad.  I was still ready to go and not look back.  But that was in my selfishness and desire for justice for the long waiting period we were experiencing.  I know now that my anger was misplaced and it was a way of disconnecting from my disappointment.  I also know that it had everything to do with the Lord’s timing.

After we went on another interview with the search team, we had GREAT feelings about the church and the people we would be ministering to if the job was ours.  The only problem was that it wasn’t a sure thing.  There were still two people in the running and my grandma’s house was just sold.  We had two weeks to find a place to live and a job to afford it.

I still thought Tennessee would be a great idea, although deep down we both knew it was time to make a decision and trust God in the whole process.  We would be moving without security, without a solid job, and without assurance that we would be able to pay for our rent every month.  But we decided to take the leap.  We moved closer to the church and prayed on our knees that God would provide.

To this day, I honestly have no idea how we paid the bills that first few months in the apartment.  We were still waiting to hear back about our jobs and found really creative ways to put food on the table and enjoy each other’s company.

The church hired us three months after we moved.  And God’s timing is perfect.  If it had been our plan, we wouldn’t have had to wait.  We wouldn’t have had to place our FULL trust in God.  We wouldn’t have learned the importance of taking a risk knowing that God would catch us…no matter the outcome.

His timing is perfect.  You have to trust and take the leap.  He will always catch you.  This story is still crazy to me.  It’s been more than two years that we’ve been worshipping and working at the church.  And I praise God for His timing, and the opportunity He has given us through His story and through the faithfulness of the leaders and elders of our church home.  He is good.

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Krista

Krista's Posts, Moments With Krista

{Moments with Krista} My Past Does Not Define Me.

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Written By: Krista Dunbar

My past does not define me.

Say those words aloud.  My past does not define me.  In just those words, there’s such a release and freedom that finds rest on my soul.  There’s an air of grace as the chains that seem to find my soul are unlocked and abandoned.

I hope you feel the same as you say those words.  But for some of us, those words serve as a reminder that no matter how ugly, how sinful, how tarnished or shameful the choices we’ve made in our past are, they DO NOT define us.

We all have a story.  We all have something we want to hide, just like Adam and Eve in the garden.

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”  
-Genesis 3:8

Almost instinctively, Adam and Eve hid themselves upon committing the first sin known to mankind.  While their account is written in the Bible, we too, even today, struggle with re-living and responding the same way…in shame and fear.  We know that with our actions comes consequences, good or bad and follow in step with Adam and Eve when we choose to hide ourselves from the One who cares for us and created us to be free from the messiness sin brings to our lives.

My college years were full of life and full of the bruises and tarnishes that comes with making the wrong choices.  When I would mess up, I would sink into pits of guilt rather than facing my mistakes and going to the One who could give me grace and forgiveness.

I don’t know you or your story.  I don’t know what you’ve chosen or what paths you’ve crossed.  No matter what your past looks like, dear one, know that you don’t have to hide.  Come out from your hiding place and show yourself to God.  He is the one who saves, provides forgiveness to our aches, tarnished hearts, and bruised souls.  He is the One who makes us fully whole and new.

Your past does not define you.  In Christ, you are a new creation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
-2 Corinthians 5:17-19

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